Dieppe, Normandy

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Les falaises

Back in February, I needed to get away. So, off to the beach we went! I’ve been to the Normandy region once before – omg so long ago – but I knew this trip would be different than tagging along as an au pair.

It ended up being the perfect getaway. Let’s get the nitty gritty stuff out of the way.

Transportation

Covoiturage (carpooling)

As one might expect, this option is for chatty people with strong stomachs, zero attachment to driving laws, and slim wallets.

Lodging

Egg Hotel Dieppe

Pros: cheap, a nice view onto historic street, great beach location (just a short walk away)
Cons: too-pleasant robot clerk, no hairdryer included, unsettlingly blank walls.

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All this for less than 10€!

Both mornings this was our breakfast – just look at all that butter! Eaten in a little place next to the Saint Jacques church in the sun.

Stumbled on a little farmer’s market – apples galore and a friendly tutoyer-ing cheese vendor. Neufchâtel is produced in a city bearing the same name that we passed on the way up to Dieppe. I’ve seen that name on cream cheese in the US but it’s not at all the same. It tasted a bit like Camembert. Very salty with a creamy center.

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The Café des Tribunaux, on the main commerce street, was great for relaxing and people-watching. After a morning of getting a salty air facial on the beach, a croque madame was the exact meal I wanted. If you were wondering what the difference between a croque madame and a croque monsieur is, it’s the egg! These afternoon pastries were quite good – passionfruit tart and something noisette I think? I lost the information of this salon de thé but it was a cute 2-story place a short walk away from Café des Tribunaux where you could look down on the street from the window.

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So, when I ordered les neuf amandes avec leur sauce échalotte at Le New Haven I honestly expected to get a plate with nine almonds on it and a yummy shallot sauce to dip them in. I was oh so curious to taste this northern French specialty comprised of such a delicate and unexpected pairing of two ingredients that I love. When the waiter ceremoniously placed a tiny fork on my side of the table, my stomach sunk; I knew what was coming…

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Once I convinced myself to actually pick up one of the shells, wrench out the thing, and drench it in the lovely vinegar-shallot sauce, I did enjoy eating it. They tasted like the sea + the sauce, in a good way. But after about three of them I’d had enough, and my bf happily finished them off.

Small towns are funny. We really enjoyed reading the local news posted on these red displays every day. I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture the first day of the shiver-inducing headline about a local murder case.

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There were plenty of beachfront casinos to choose from. After seeing them on our many walks on the beach I finally forced us to go in. We played some slot machines as was recommended by the very friendly woman who takes your money and gives you a fake and illogically proportioned version to play with. I’ve never been to Vegas so I relied on my Super Nintendo skills to win and then instantly lose 50€. Every day I wake up and the bitterness that floods my being forces me to have an extra sugar in my coffee. No, just kidding, but wow I understand gambling addiction now. I really, really wanted to keep playing to “win it back” – even though I’d never actually won it.

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The architecture was a fascinating and sad mix of beautiful old buildings and either modern reconstructions or the signs of plans to rebuild. I must have been quite impressionnée because I have almost no pictures of buildings despite our many walks around town.

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Other discoveries were the bomb shelters remaining from the war on the tops of the cliffs every couple hundred meters, the boats and lock, and the château on the edge of town. No pics, too captivated! We also noticed that the buses stop running at 7pm (!!!) and learned the hard way that almost every store and restaurant is closed on Monday. Ah, small towns, so quaint! Luckily there were two kebab shops to choose from and we picked a winner with Istanbul Kebab – it was honestly more delicious than most Parisian ones I’ve been to. ❤

London

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St. Pancras station in London – in my head it’s “pancreas”

I’m going to squish this all in one post because we squished this all in one weekend!

I fell in LOVE with London. Maybe it was the sunshine that weekend, or the fact that I was with my best friend, or the fact that it’s been on my travel wish list for so long, but I was instantly smitten! Everywhere we went was charming, different, and interesting. The buses were crazy! The people were so nice! There was good coffee with or without ice cubes everywhere! Clotted cream in the train station! The SHOPPING!

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Tried to capture what I think is Westminster Abbey in the background?

OMG I just can’t even handle it. Paris has so many amazing things, but none of the above. And I don’t realize until I get out how much it sucks sometimes. 😉 I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Paris after three years here. The housing situation, things being randomly closed, shitty weather…I will now mention some things I love about Paris to make myself feel better, since I won’t be going back to California until Christmas. The fig tart I had recently…champagne for the smallest of occasions…tiny windy streets…my friends…French, the language…cigarette smoke…duck…the buildings…the museums I love…dogs…ok I feel better now.

Back to London!

Here are some of our discoveries:

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GAH!

Diwana | Not only is every cuisine represented in London, but odd sub-categories like Indian Vegetarian buffet exist in the restaurant scene. YES. I didn’t love every dish but it being a buffet who cares. Plus it was only £6.95! It was packed with businesspeople on their lunch break – always a good sign.

Diwana Restaurant – 121 Drummond Street / London NW1 2HL / Euston

Pizza_Pilgrims

Yes.

Pizza Pilgrims | This would go number 4 on my list of best pizzas (1. Una Pizza Napolitana in SF 2. any homemade pizza 3. Zachary’s in Oakland) – it was just a solid, wood-fired oven pizza with great sauce and cheese. Mmm I’m drooling just remembering and I think it’s been almost two months. Long wait, but they’ll serve you cocktails while you wait outside – brilliant! We went to the Soho location but there is another one in Carnaby.

Pizza Pilgrims – 11 Dean Street / Soho W1D 3RP

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Drink Shop & Do | I love doing ridiculous things like going somewhere for cake and coffee for breakfast and then going somewhere for tea after. Ottilia does too. This is why we are friends. This was yet another amazing little treasure that Ot spotted from the bus – not only do they serve brunch and lunch and good coffee, they have a whole counter full of homemade, beautiful cakes (frosting is considered optional in Paris – not cool), all the furniture and decorations are vintage and for sale, and they have art classes. When we were there, a bride and her bridesmaids were having tea and making crafts. !!!

Drink Shop & Do – 9 Caledonian Road / King’s Cross, London / N1 9DX
020 7278 4335

Tea-time

Tea Rooms | I was obsessed with having a true English-style tea and though Ottilia’s mom is from London so she grew up having tea all the time she was down. We found this place online and it was lovely. We were served copious amounts of little sandwiches, scones, and cakes, and we got TWO full pots of tea! And I learned the hard way that a thin layer of clotted cream is best. (And my friend Amelia has since told me that she puts the jam on first, then puts the cream and lets it sort of melt down, which sounds amazing.) This neighborhood was also full of lovely stores full of high-quality things I didn’t even know I wanted, like really nice gold scissors, and cute cheeky greeting cards.

Tea Rooms – 155 Stoke Newington Church St / London N16 0UH

Cocktails-in-a-can _M&S

Marks & Spencer | We do have this in Paris, but they don't carry everything that they do in the London ones. We discovered CANNED VODKA AND GIN AND TONICS. Genius, practical, and delicious.

The Tate Modern | I only had time for one museum, but I quite enjoyed this one. I was interested in the paying exhibit but decided to spend my leftover pounds on a Topshop dress instead – priorities. 🙂 The free parts were great! I happened upon a photography series in California and I recognized a photo of an AC Transit bus. Funny to stumble across that in London. I also loved this sculpture – not just because of the glitter and bright color (but mostly). I especially like it because the glitter is composed of crystals that formed naturally from an application of copper sulfate powder. As the description reads, the artist “uses chemical or mineral processes to explore ideas of growth and change and the tensions between the industrial and the organic.” While I sometimes don’t appreciate when you need an explanation to understand art, this time it helped me understand the piece and enjoy it more!

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by Roger Hiorns

General awesome-ness and happiness | Ok so I might have unrealistic tourist take on London, but there was so much cool stuff everywhere! Like Paris (and of course many other cities) there are beautiful parks integrated into the city that we kept stumbling upon. The flowers and plants were just as stunning as in the Jardin de Luxembourg or Versailles. There was free tight-rope walking in a grassy area with a very nice guy offering to help you mount and dismount. We also enjoyed Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a way to walk off the Indian food on our first day. Walking through Soho, we happened upon a Birchbox event – I paid £3 for several samples and discovered a new favorite lip balm, and the money went to charity. All of the people we encountered were so nice, apologizing if we had to wait at restaurants. I just LOVED it and I’m so so so stoked to go back!

A bientôt

A bientôt

Barcelona / The dog is hot

Ottilia found this place online while searching for vegetarian places to eat. It was a great find!

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The menu – I got Piñadog

They offer several hot dog topping combinations, as well as either a vegetarian or a meat dog. I think there were gluten-free buns as well. I loved the topping choices – they were really crazy and delicious flavor combinations – but the best part was the ten or so bottles of sauce on the counter so you could add even more elements to create a flavor explosion! ☺

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Yup, those are fried potatoes

After I finished mine, I really, really wanted another, but somehow managed to resist. This was a good choice, since a few minutes later my stomach registered what I’d eaten and was definitely full.

The neighborhood was nice to visit, and as you might have read in my first post about Barcelona, we tried to go back the next day because we loved it so much, but it was closed. Cheap and delicious, as is apparently my motto. 😉

The dog is hot
Raval
C/ Joaquin Costa n°47

Food + Drink in Lisbon

Note to self: never listen to French people when discussing the cuisines of other countries. Everyone I spoke to before going to Portugal told me the food was bland, that it was a meat-centric cuisine and that they were incapable of cooking it nicely. This made me worried for Ottilia (vegetarian). But we were surprised and delighted by the number of vegetarian restaurants we saw while strolling around. Sometimes it felt like we were in San Francisco, not Portugal! Many places seemed to be very French-influenced or otherwise global.

While exploring one day, we took note of one place, Planeta Bio, that looked nicer, and returned there on our last night in Lisbon. At 8pm, we were the only diners! (Later on, we walked by and noticed that it was packed and there was now a wait. It’s such a late-night city!) There were only 4 options on the menu, and you chose small or big and 2 or 3 dishes. That’s it.

Planeta Bio

Planeta Bio

Between the two of us we tried everything! There was moussaka, leek lasagna, leek gratin, and seitan korma. It came with a delicious, fresh salad and a choice of couscous or brown rice. Our only complaint was that it was not spicy enough. I suppose we could have asked for some sauce or something…anyways, it’s so nice to get healthy food like this while on vacation!

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One day we did a walking tour to learn a little bit about Lisbon, and afterwards we strolled around the winding cobblestone streets in the older part of town. I saw a sign for 1€ wine so of course I had to stop. We ended up stopping for a small glass of the green wine typical of Portugal and fell in love with the charming, cave-like bar. The woman who worked there was so nice, and there were plenty of lovely local liqueurs, sardines, honey, etc. that would make great gifts.

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Yummy things to buy

ceiling of Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho

The ceiling

Another unique experience was checking out Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho, a nice little wine bar in a converted well-head/fountain space. It was a calm and romantic space, with sort of slow service but very nice people working. I have so much respect for waiters who have to walk up and down stairs, especially with tall bottles and delicate glasses! Anyways, I just really wanted to try some porto and they had several different types. We also got a chocolate mousse to share – it was more of a pot de crème or pudding than a mousse, but whatever the name it was chocolate-y and rich. Come here for very nice wine and a relaxing, chill ambiance – if I went back I would love to do the tasting menu!

wine bar in Lisbon

Looking down from the upper level

Switching gears to a more simple dining experience – we went to the modern area near the airport on the recommendation of someone from our hostel. This area was updated for the Expo ’98 and it looks quite different from all the cobblestone streets and tiled buildings found elsewhere in Lisbon. We rode the Telecabine and had a fun time checking out the view of the water, and when we got hungry we found an unassuming little restaurant that ended up being a great find!

Good views in Lisbon

View of the modern side of Lisbon from the skycrawler

roast chicken at waterfront Lisbon restaurant

Rice, fries, and a little salad were included with more than one meal we had – a strange but oddly satisfying trend in Lisbon

Unlike most other places we’d been to, not much English was spoken but we got by with hand gestures and saying a mix of Spanish and French words. Ottilia’s omelette was 4€ and my roast chicken was fabulous. Nearby diners were eating lots of different fish dishes that looked good for someone who loves seafood. I would 100% eat there again! I can’t find the name of the restaurant, but from some sleuthing on Google maps I believe the address is 103 on the street parallel to Rua Bojador and the waterfront, right around the corner from the north entrance of the Telecabine.

yummy portuguese restaurant

Planeta Bio
R. Francisco Sanches 39,
1170-141 Lisboa, Portugal

O Cantinho da Rute
R. Sao Miguel, 79
Lisboa, Portugal

Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho
Praça da Alegria
1250-000 Lisboa, Portugal

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Cheese shop

Lisb’on Hostel

This is the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. There was lots of common space, comfortable and clean rooms, and it was well-located being close to the water and lots of bars and restaurants and the metro.

The building was very old, redone but with the original spirit preserved. It was charming but functioning. The computers and printing abilities were also handy.

The common room

The common room

The garden in back was fabulous – hammocks, beanbags, chill music, and cheap drinks available at the hostel bar (1,20€ sangria, 1,50€ wine). Sometimes we didn’t even want to venture out!

View of garden from above

View of garden from above

The roof terrace had a great view – and some really cute, built-in chairs – but no food or drinks allowed was lame (to respect the neighbors).

Terrace

Terrace

Big drawer storage under each bed, with a lock, was much appreciated.

Stunning views from certain rooms, complete with window seats, were breathtaking.

There are pub crawls every night – we did one once and it was fun! Our guide was from Lisbon. Some of his friends stopped by the bars, so it was interesting to meet some locals that way. There were lots of people on the street that would try to sell pot, sunglasses, and other things – unexpected, and a bit sad.

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Some things were not so great…

Generally, the hostel employees were very helpful, but a few times we were ignored, which was irritating.

They require guests to wear paper bracelets to be allowed to exit and enter, and it felt like we were at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for four days. It got itchy, sweaty, and annoying after awhile!

The plumbing caused gross smells to happen in the bathroom/shower rooms. (When discussing it with some people we met, one of them mentioned that because of the old plumbing in Portugal toilet paper is not flushed but thrown into a bin next to the toilet. If this is the case, the hostel should put signs up so that all the foreign people staying there don’t ruin the pipes!)

Lisb’on Hostel
Rua do Ataide, 7A
Lisbon, Portugal 1200-034

Other Lisbon posts:

Cheese shop
Food and drink

Lisbon – Queijaria (cheese shop)

I went to Lisbon and Barcelona with my bff Ottilia this month! I’ll post some of the highlights. Here’s the first – a lovely cheese shop right near our hostel.

Ottilia is such a cheese-lover that she is part of a cheese club, and I will never say no to some great cheese. Since we were eating so many meals out, two of our nights we decided to stop into this shop for a wedge of cheese to eat with wine for dinner. Could there be anything better?

Ottilia in front of the store

Ottilia in front of the store

I’ve never had such good service in a cheese shop! They gave such a warm welcome, and were able to speak English with us to answer all of our questions. The shop has a few rooms – the back tasting room is the place you want to be! We tasted tons of cheese – they have a selection of the best from Portugal, as well as some from Spain, France, and England. They had never heard of Vermont or Wisconsin but we suggested that they look into our favorite sharp American cheddars. They were so generous, even cutting new wheels open to let us taste.

Samples galore

Samples galore

The shop also carries different crackers, jams, and wine to go with the cheese. There was even a little section with boards, slicers, and books. They had a basket of these weird-looking things, and the man could not remember the translation in English. We were all very curious, so eventually we looked it up and it was carob – being familiar with vegetarian cooking, we knew it well. Funny to find it in Portugal!

Lovely selection

Lovely selection

I don’t think they have a website – but here is their address:

Queijaria
Rua das Flores, 64
1200-195 Lisboa
Phone: 21 346 04 74
Email: queijaria at quijaria.pt

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Food and drink

WWOOFing in Jumilhac-le-Grand, France

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Yup, I’m that weird girl who felt the need to go back to a goat farm in a very small town in France.

My first wwoofing experience was so unexpectedly eye-opening that instead of taking the risk and trying a new farm, I went back to the same one. I made a connection with the people and animals at this farm so I wanted to return. It was cool to come back and see what had and hadn’t changed since about a year and a half ago, and to increase my knowledge of the organic lifestyle. If one of the main goals of wwoofing is to inspire people to incorporate organic and sustainable activities into their daily lives, then they have succeeded. I am planning to try to grow some tomatoes and herbs on my terrasse next spring/summer, and I want to make an effort to eat more seasonally.

That's me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

That’s me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

As a non-vegetarian and a non-pet owner (although I want my own cat so bad), I am not the most animal-obsessed person in my life. I really enjoy being around animals though – being more familiar with the farm this time around allowed me to pay attention and form little bonds with individuals goats and other animals. There was a 2-month old baby boy goat who was allowed to stay with the 100 or so lady goats. We quickly became “friends” during la traite, since he would come up to me and want to be pet, and try to eat my clothes. So adorable! I had to be reminded several times that he would grow up to be a huge goat and no, I could not take him back to Paris with me. Sadface.

He has no name yet but it's the year of J names

He has no name yet but it’s the year of J names

As part of the work team of the farm for the week, I witnessed the highs and lows of life on the farm. One day, most of the goats escaped from a field with normal grass to a neighboring one that held a different type of grain, not to be consumed at this time of year by the goats. The following day, they had horrible diarrhea – it was pretty disgusting. Gundula, Louise, and Maëva handled most of the dirty work, but I did help a bit with la traite and was terrified that they would poop on me (one of them did on Gundula!). The daily cleaning of la chèvrerie took much longer that day since we needed to put a ton more hay and straw down to absorb it all. More importantly, the reaction to the grains that caused them to get sick is potentially fatal, and can also have effects on the goats’ milk production. Luckily, they healed the next day, but it was a smelly reminder of the perils of farming. Just like that, all the “tools” needed to produce one’s product could perish.

bio

bio

On to less stinky subjects…it was a good choice to come in the height of summer. I ate fresh, organic, local tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onions in some form every single day. The mirabelle plum trees were perfectly ripe, and Maëva taught me to shake the branches to make the ripest fruit fall. She hadn’t even been tending super well to her garden since she has been so busy, but there were still mint leaves to be plucked up as an all-natural breath freshener, and other herbs and veggies that we could “harvest” and use at our whim. Over at the farm, I made a salad one day using a big head of lettuce that I picked out of the garden. We went blackberry picking and managed to grab a whole kilo, enough to make 5 small jars of jam. I’ve already finished one! I could go on and on, but basically, gardens are awesome and I’m wondering why the hell I live in Paris?! Hopefully I can live somewhere with garden space at some point in my life.

Organic vegetables at the Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

Organic vegetables at the small but mighty Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

I loved getting to know some of the people in this town, inhabited by 1200 people (according to Wikipedia). Maëva is friends with the coolest people – the other organic farmers (we had apéro at the produce guy’s house, that he rebuilt himself with his wife), people who make homemade pizza in wood-fire ovens located in a squat, the guy who delivers homemade organic bread for €2. I got the gossip about everyone we saw, down to the bitchy butcher’s wife.

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

I’m so happy I went back to the farm. Not only was it great to see everyone again, but if I randomly was forced to drop everything and run a goat farm, I feel like I would be well-equipped to do so. And I’m no longer under the delusion that living in a small town is as boring as we make it out to be. There are plenty of advantages to a lifestyle outside of a big city, things that I forget about when I’m in my hectic Paris rhythm. It’s just nice to remember that there are other ways to live in the world, in case I ever tire of big-city life.

CHEESE

CHEESE

Tasska (spécialités libanaises)

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I NEED to share with the internet my love for this sandwich, found at a Lebanese restaurant in my coin.

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It is a wrap with freshly cooked chicken, hummus, and an amazing crunch, sour condiment. The combo of the flavorful chicken with the mystery Lebanese sauerkraut is so addictive that the packaged bread they serve it on is forgiveable. Clearly I need to do some research on these components so I can get to cooking, but I wanted to get this out in the world! My plan is to befriend the woman who works there and ask for recipes so I can make my own. The last time I went in, she recognized me so I have made some progress on this front!

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Until I succeed, I’ll be returning for my weekly €4.50 fix.

Tasska
195, rue Crimée
75019 Paris
01 40 34 74 48
Métro Crimée, Line 7

Backpacking in the south of France

In August, I was invited on a backpacking trip in the south of France.  This was the perfect low-budget escape from my apartment, which in the summer was about as comfortable as the inside of a volcano.  I was told we’d be hiking through the Gorges du Verdon – touted as the “Grand Canyon of Europe.”  Ha!  The plan was to hike 4-5 hours every day, and eat in local restaurants each night.  My first and only backpacking experience was in Yosemite, and this sounded very easy in comparison.

The group at the start of our hike

The group at the start of our hike

“Easy” is the last word I’d use to describe our trip.  Our first night, we slept in an almost-empty lot after 9 hours of driving.  Needless to say, we weren’t in top form the next day.  Within the first half hour of hiking, I realized this was going to be more than just some light hiking.  It was boiling hot and what felt like an instant steep ascent.  However, the beauty of the trail more than made up for it’s difficulties.  I quite enjoyed the varied views we were treated to the whole time.  It was always a surprise when we’d round a bend and come upon a huge plateau, or a deep canyon, or a thick forest.  The trails were littered with wild thyme, lavender, and other herbs.  I became addicted to reaching down and grabbing a few sprigs to place in my pack straps or crumble on top of myself to combat some of my hiking stink.

Photo by Frédy

Photo by Frédy


Photo by Frédy

Photo by Frédy


The group in front of some striations

The group in front of some striations

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Lavender!

Lavender!

Backpacking with French people is the same as it is with Americans – you walk, sweat, chat, and sing.  You admire the scenery, you complain, you give each other massages and share snacks and water.  However, there is one notable and awesome difference.  French people, at least the ones I know, seem to have an inability to go anywhere without wine.  Despite the full and heavy packs we all carried, somehow at each lunch break a bottle of something would magically emerge.  We used the various bodies of water we encountered as natural refrigerators.  Hiking in the heat was made bearable by all the chilled rosé we had!

Photo by Kat

Photo by Kat

Our first night, we had a glamping experience and stayed in a really nice gîte (hostel/hotel sort of thing).  For just €40 each we had a whole house with several rooms to ourselves for the night, as well as dinner at the adjoining crêperie and breakfast (complete with local honey).  It also happened to be the annual music festival in the tiny town, so after dinner, we walked about ten steps to the tent set up in the town square and checked out the music.  We first saw an interesting act of a woman singing karaoke-style to some 80s hit, followed by a talented husband and wife duo.

Our honey selection - Châtaigne was our fave

Our honey selection – Châtaigne was our fave

On the second day, we reached our planned campsite around dusk only to discover that it was dirty and too close to the edge.  Even though we were running low on water, we decided to keep hiking and find another place to do camping sauvage (real camping, outdoors in tents).  Though we were exhausted from over 12 hours of hiking, we pressed on, knowing that in the morning we’d be closer to the little town where we could restock our water and food supplies.

We finally found a suitable (ish) place to camp.  There was just enough space among a mini forest of trees for our three tents, which we pitched for the first time in the dark!  Our makeshift campsite was next to a cow patch, so all night long we had a soundtrack of clanging cowbells and the occasional moo.  5 out of 6 of us agreed that the trees were too thick and there was too much combustible material around to build a fire to cook our sausages for dinner.  We had about 1/2 liter of water for all six of us.

It was not the best situation to be in – but remember that I was with French people!  So, we busted out our bottle of red wine, and we even had some whiskey and vodka.  Best of all, I remembered that I had brought a bag of marshmallows, and one of the boys had brought a little bunsen burner.  So our dinner was alcohol and toasted marshmallows.  Dinner of champions, I tell you!  We gave each other foot massages with some healing essential oils and looked at the stars through the trees, listening to the cows.  Even though this was the roughest and scariest night (if I really stopped to think about our situation), it was my favorite one.  From then on, our little group had a nice bond and lots of inside jokes to laugh about for the rest of our trip.

After a rough night’s sleep on top of a few tree roots and many rocks – this is why I don’t recommend pitching a tent in the dark – we hiked a short way to the village and refueled.  Then we commenced another insanely hard day of an instant climb to the top of a peak in high heat.  We drank all of our water and finally reached the next spring, only to discover that it had dried up!  So again, we problem-solved by drinking a box of rosé and taking a long break to enjoy the view at the top of the mountain and wave to people paragliding above us and into the clouds.  Paragliding is definitely on my wish list of activities to do – it looked so cool!

The lake we finally reached a few days later

The lake we finally reached a few days later is behind us

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The rosé helped me fearlessly descend for an hour or so on steep, winding paths littered with jagged and loose rocks.  I was carrying the tent this day and the extra weight as well as the dehydration from the wine really wore me out.  But, we finally made it down the mountain to the road.  We decided to hitchhike the rest of the way to the campsite, where we pitched our tents in daylight, had showers, and a great pizza recovery meal.

The following morning I woke up with insect bites all over my hands and feet, a few on my arms, and worst of all, my face!  I applied lots of the anti-itch cream I had brought with me (I ALWAYS get bitten by mosquitos, why meeeee) as we ate breakfast, but I knew I was going to break down.  I tried to hold it together but I started crying just imagining trying to manage the itching with the heat, the heavy pack, and the difficult mileage ahead that day.  Everyone was really nice to me and didn’t make me feel like a brat.  We decided to do a really light day and then hitchhike the rest of the way.  Luckily I wasn’t alone in my complaints – the two girls were suffering from bad sunburns and bursitis, and the boys were really tired and sore as well.

We packed up and went for lunch at a restaurant in the town up the hill and tried to rally. After a trip to a pharmacie for help with our various ailments, we still weren’t getting a move on.  The boys ordered some digestifs – another part of French dining that I love!  We got some génépi – a delicious liqueur that reminds me a bit of chartreuse.  It’s herbal and a little bit sweet, but bitter at the same time.  Anyways, I loved it, and apparently everyone else did too because we all wanted a second shot.  It made more sense price-wise to get a bottle, and then after that bottle we all wanted another because it was so good.

Just kiddinggg

Just kiddinggg

Then we got hungry again and grabbed some amazing pâté and baguette from the nearby butcher and boulanger, and then all the French people were like “Non non non, ça va pas, il faut pas manger du pâté avec du génépi, on doit boire du vin rouge avec” so we got a pitcher of red wine…and thus our 4th day of hiking turned into la folie.  You only live once, right?!  Plus the drinking numbed my bug bites.

Yummmmyyyyy

Yummmmyyyyy

After that lovely day, we made it to our next campsite by way of the generous people who live in the south of France.  Seriously, everyone there is SO NICE.  I want to move down there!  This was a nice campsite, and we spent the evening chatting with our nice neighbors and then walking into town for some dinner.  At the restaurant we received free digestifs  and I fell in love with another kind of liqueur – thyme liqueur, a specialty of the region!  Herby and refreshing.

relaxing after a hard day of drinking, eating, and hitchhiking

relaxing after a hard day of drinking, eating, and hitchhiking

The next day, we hitchhiked to Lake St Croix – we were working towards this the whole trip.  Even though we cheated on the last two days, we did hike about 100km total and we were really proud when we got our first view of the lake.   We had a mini bbq, so we grabbed some food at the market up the hill and spent the afternoon on the shore drinking – you guessed it – more rosé and eating kebabs and grilled zucchini.  Oh, and swimming in the lake!  It was so beautiful and crisp and perfect lake weather.  I only saw a few tiny fish that didn’t come anywhere near me so I was happily floating for hours.  We finished the night toasting champagne over an overpriced meal at a restaurant up the hill.  Good times!

20130813183434 _Fredy

Nice, France

My parents finally were able to take the opportunity to come visit me in Paris! It’s been almost two years since I’ve moved here and they hadn’t come to visit yet. We had a wonderful time together – it felt more like I was hanging out with really good friends (albeit, rich ones who buy everything for you, haha) than my parents. I guess that means I’m a grown-up and have an adult relationship with them?! Scary! Let’s move on…

My dad and I playing tourist

My dad and I playing tourist

So in Paris, we did plenty of things in sometimes rainy, sometimes boiling hot weather. June in Paris, it turns out, is not always the best. But, it didn’t matter because we were together. It’s so fun to see Paris through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live here. We found a Holocaust monument that was right in my old quartier that I never noticed! Plus, we went up the Arc de Triomphe and checked out the Jewish Museum, two things I hadn’t had a chance to do yet.

We had an excellent meal at Le Florimond for my mom’s birthday. We split a bottle of champagne to toast her, all of our dishes were amazingly prepared, and the waiters even sang her happy birthday! I had the best confit de canard I’ve had yet, plus I tried lobster in a ravioli dish for the first time (not obsessed but I didn’t hate it)! My mom got a beef stew-type thing that came in a mini dutch oven – very cute, and the best beef stew I’ve ever tasted! I don’t remember what my dad got. I definitely recommend this restaurant if you find yourself in Paris for a special occasion. It’s very cozy and intimate, they are more than happy to answer questions or translate any of the French, and they have English menus too if you need it.

My mom and I at BNI - it was interesting to attend a French networking event!

My mom and I at BNI – it was interesting to attend a French networking event!

Beach in Nice

Beach in Nice

My favorite part of their stay was our trip to the south of France. We spent three days in Nice and also visited Antibes (our favorite), Monaco (meh), and Cannes (meh). We stayed at the Hotel du Suède which I’d recommend – it’s clean and nice but most importantly, it’s located about two seconds from the beach! The surrounding streets are pretty touristy, but I have to admit that it was useful to shop in the souvenir shops – we got some cheap mats to lie on the sand in and I found a cheap bikini to tan in!

At the beach in Nice

At the beach in Nice

We were about a ten minute walk away from Old Nice – little winding streets with tons of restaurants and bars. We had one so-so meal and one fabulous one there. Chez Juliette had beautiful table decorations, great service, and lovely food. If we had stayed another day we would have gone back, it was that good. It was located next to a gay bar, complete with a cross-dresser (transvestite? what is the politically correct term for a man who dresses like a woman?) in a pink wig who was going around flirting with everyone, and mimicking the capoeira performers that started doing crazy backflips on the street. We got gelato a few times at Fenocchio’s – they have tons of flavors and all the ones we tried were great.

Walking off our gelato just a few streets above the crowded Old section of Nice

Walking off our gelato just a few streets above the crowded Old section of Nice

Chez Juliette

Chez Juliette

We didn’t spend the whole time eating and beach-ing. We managed to hit up 3 different museums – the Matisse museum in Nice, the Picasso museum in Antibes, and the Chagall museum in Nice. My favorite by far was the Chagall museum – they had lots of his paintings, including many early ones I have never seen before. There was also a great 40-minute film that included interviews with him as an old man and footage of him painting. He had a great personality! It made me wish that I could see similar interviews with all my favorite artists throughout history. The Matisse museum had a smaller volume of works, but I think there was an exhibit traveling elsewhere that was due back at the museum in July. The Picasso museum had a beautiful interior and a lovely back garden with ocean views.

My parents right outside the Picasso Museum

My parents right outside the Picasso Museum

On our last full day in the south, we drove over to Monaco. It was cool to check off the list, and to visit the second-smallest country in the world, but overall we were underwhelmed. It might have been the clouds, or perhaps the commercialism that glints off every yacht and high-rise building. It’s basically a giant luxury shopping mall-turned-city. We were also dismayed to watch a yacht turn on it’s engines and run them for 30 minutes while docked – way to respect the environment, guys! We did have some great cocktails and people-watching in front of the Casino.

The waterfront in Monaco

The waterfront in Monaco

My dad and I at the bar in front of the Casino

My dad and I at the bar in front of the Casino

€50 for 3 drinks!

€50 for 3 drinks!

My dad was stoked

My dad was stoked

My mom was less stoked

My mom was less stoked

I was happy!

Cheers to a great trip!

We really loved the Nice area. If you rent a car, it’s so easy to get out and explore the nearby towns. I think if we had stayed in Nice for 3 days straight it would have gotten old, but with all the exploring we did it was hard to leave by the end!

Overall, my parents’ visit was fabulous. We made some great new memories – some good (so much time to talk face-to-face, my mom and I making fun of my dad’s attempts at French – people kept responding to him in Spanish or Italian! although by the end of two weeks he was pas mal, cocktails and wine all the time since they were on vacation and I’m, well, I live in Europe), some bad (my dad getting yelled at by a crazy street cleaner, and simply not having enough time). It’s so fun to see Paris through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live here. We found a Holocaust monument that was right in my old quartier that I never noticed! Plus, we went up the Arc de Triomphe and checked out the Jewish Museum, two things I hadn’t had a chance to do yet.